Saturday, April 12, 2014

ReelWorld Film Festival 2014: The "Identity" Shorts

On April 4, 2014, I attended the premiere of the 5 identity-themed shorts at the ReelWorld Film Festival at Famous Players Canada Square. The five shorts were, in chronological order: The Railpath Hero, My Heritage, No Love Lost, La Ville Lumière, and Second Jen. Prior to entering the theatre, I, among other moviegoers, was presented with a ballot. It had a blank for a movie name and the numbers 1 to 5. We were asked to rate the movie, given that 1 was the lowest score and 5 was the highest. For any one film, this wouldn’t be a problem. However, I was there to watch five stitched-together shorts. I ended up only voting for one of the movies, as I only had one ballot. Aside from a somewhat lacking voting system, the experience was enjoyable. After the screening, there was a very, very short Q & A session with the crew behind three of the films – if you could even call it that.

The first of the five shorts was The Railpath Hero, a stunning story about a young hockey player attempting to achieve his dream while suffering through sexual abuse. The movie explores this mature theme with cautiousness – the film does not explictly dive into it, but strays on the outskirts with the usage of audio and a video camera. The 11-minute short features sharp visuals with include a well-lit environment. The movie’s sound also complements the mood well and is key to the central theme. The Railpath Hero explores a seldom-mentioned theme elegantly and is a triumph for victims of childhood abuse.

The Railpath Hero: A-
Director: Laurie Townshend
Producers: Sofia Stefou, Laurie Townshend
Writer: Laurie Townshend

My Heritage is a comedic mockumentary highlighting the highs and lows of a father-son relationship. The short explores several Asian stereotypes, which may offend certain moviegoers. The filmmakers emphasize “Rule of Funny” by contrasting English and Cantonese-voiced parts – subtitles are provided. The movie has a bright song or two that play at the beginning and end that lighten up the mood. The rest of the score complements the mood well. Its cinematography is occasionally weak. Sometimes, images are blurry, or the lighting is off. Otherwise, the movie has a complement of props and environment to support its story to good effect. While the short clearly emphasizes comedy, it does have a heartwarming message art at heart.

My Heritage: B
Production: Narvaez Productions
Directors: Alex Narvaez
Co-Director:  Phil Leung
Producers: Alex Narvaez, Phil Leung
Writer: Phil Leung

No Love Lost highlights the problems that plague a young couple’s romantic relationship. The pair are secretly carrying on a relationship. Others, including a stalker, attempt to interfere. As the stalker comes closer, so does the couple. The two character arcs flow well together and connect. The movie’s silence emphasizes its environment, which is helped in part by its score and cinematography. Since this movie has a religious base, some viewers may be left confused or clueless about certain segments, myself included. No Love Lost can’t reach out to all audiences and is easily forgettable.

No Love Lost: C
Production: IB Filmn
Director: Shekhar Bassi
Producers: Shalinder Bassi, Shekhar Bassi, Gemma Lloyd, Helen Silver
Writers: Shalinder Bassi, Shekhar Bassi

Clocking in at 31 minutes, La Ville Lumiere is the longest of the five shorts. This French film, with English subtitles, explores the life of Stephane, a young man conflicted due to the stress of work and his lack of companionship.  Stephane accepts a job at his father’s restaurant, where he and other busboys experience constant verbal abuse from the more senior staff – especially his father. After working for a while, Stephane has to choose between friendship and his father. For those who are unfamiliar with the hierarchy of a kitchen, such as myself, it’s sometimes hard to figure out who’s who. This is one of the main weaknesses of La Ville Lumiere, as there often isn’t enough exposition to develop a character’s backstory, which may leave viewers flabbergasted.

Partway through the movie, the busboys head to a club after work – where Stephane meets a young woman. This scene is used to great effect, highlighting Stephane’s need for companionship, and his desire to achieve independence. The intimate scene follows, used as a means to emphasize that, but had it been toned down, a similar effect could have been achieved. When Stephane finally makes his decision at the end, his grandmother helps him realize that it’s important to view the world from someone else’s perspective. La Ville Lumiere is a mature film that manages to deliver a message, though its script is sometimes confusing.

La Ville Lumiere: B+
Production: La Luna Productions
Director:  Pascal Tessaud
Producer: Sébastien Hussenot
Writer: Pascal Tessaud

In Second Jen’s comedic story, Jen and Jen move out of their houses, much to their parents’ dismay, and into an apartment, shared with Nate and Louis. The four of them, even with their contrasting personalities, discover the best in independence, even with their rocky beginnings. The movie starts off with a hilarious introduction and exposition that clearly defines characters. It uses SFX to excellent effect, giving the movie a light mood. Even without directly showcasing their environment, the filmmakers manage to show it via dialogue. While Second Jen explores stereotypes as well (which again, may offend some viewers), it places a larger focus on the relationship forming between the four main characters. Second Jen is an optimistic, funny sitcom about moving out and gaining independence.

Second Jen: B+
Production: Spectacle Media
Directors: Joseph O’Brien, Samantha Wan
Producer: Samantha Wan
Writer: Amanda Joy Lim